Owen F. Dolen Park

Owen Dolen Recreation Center

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

What was here before?

The area surrounding the park is known as Westchester Square. Originally the site of a Dutch outpost in the 1600s, the area developed into a village called Oostdorp, meaning “East Village,” referring to the colony’s location to the east of Nieuw Amsterdam. When the English took over the area, they renamed Nieuw Amsterdam ”New York,” after the Duke of York, and Oostdorp was renamed “West Chester,” in recognition of its location west of the New England colonies.

Westchester Square emerged as a commercial hub, due in part to the extension of the Lexington Avenue-Pelham Bay subway (now the 6 train) to the area in late 1920s.  The subway station is a striking piece of architecture, decorated with colorful tiles in a geometric pattern and stained-glass windows by famed artist Romare Bearden (1911–1988).

How did this become a park and recreation center?

In 1907 the City acquired the western portion of the park, later occupied by a World War I memorial. The rest of the property was acquired in 1909, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) expanded a 1927 comfort station into a branch of the New York Public Library in the 1930s.  The original building still bears the inscription “New York Public Library.”

In 1982, the building was expanded and converted to its present use as the Owen Dolen Golden Age Center and NYC Parks’ District 9 offices. The new addition, with its bold triangular façade over the entrance, was designed by John Ciardullo Associates. Today, it serves as a social center for the community, attracting local residents of all ages with activities from aerobics classes to afterschool programs to special programs for seniors.

The park contains two pieces of statuary, a 15-foot-high granite pylon at the corner of East Tremont Avenue and Lane Avenue that honors Westchester residents who served in World War I (1914-1918), and The Seat (1987) by David Saunders, which depicts a chair with an open book underneath, and pays homage to pensive moments in life. Until recently, the park had been split in the middle by Benson Street. The street was closed in 1993 and has been replaced by vegetation to expand and unify the park.

In 2013 NYC Parks built several spaces to accommodate outdoor events and community programming, including a large plaza along Westchester Avenue. The park’s lawns were expanded and consolidated, and its pedestrian paths were streamlined and repaved. The project also included new seating, trees, ornamental plantings, additional lighting, improved drainage, and fencing.

Who is this park and recreation center named for?

In 1925, Owen F. Dolen (c.1864-1925) was asked to speak at the unveiling ceremony of the World War I monument in this park, then known as Westchester Square. Dolen was a well-respected educator and life-long member of the community who had spearheaded the campaign to place the memorial at the square. He gave a rousing twenty-five-minute speech, bowed to the crowd, sat down, and died of a heart attack just minutes later. On April 30, 1926, the Board of Aldermen (now the City Council) voted to name the park in Dolen’s memory.

Directions to Owen F. Dolen Park

Know Before You Go

Recreation Centers
Owen Dolen Recreation Center

Owen Dolen Recreation Center remains closed to the public until further notice. Some recreation centers are being used for COVID-19 testing and vaccination services, the Learning Bridges program, and critical seasonal training. Please visit our Recreation Centers page to find an alternate recreation center.

  • Building
  • Owen DOlen Golden Age Center

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